Aug. 17/24; Volume 30/Number 5
By Jenna Lippin
Brand recognition plays a major role in a company’s ranking in the marketplace, with customers being more inclined to buy from a name they know and trust. Consumers connect with brands on deeper levels as they represent visual, emotional and cultural images associated with a company or product. While the most popular brands in the marketplace are typically associated with an image, logo or tagline, these things aren’t necessary for a business to create branding.
According to How-To-Branding.com, a website that offers tools for successful branding and marketing, a business’ brand is “the sum of everything your organization is, says and does.” A key for any business is having control of a brand. With less control, there is less recognition—and therefore less trust—in the marketplace.
Consumers will pay a premium for products under a brand name that will serve them best. Think of luxury car brands like Mercedes-Benz or Lexus—higher quality, performance and top-notch customer service are synonymous with these brands, making people more inclined to buy from them. How about Starbucks? Coffee that is double the price of that from a store like Dunkin’ Donuts, but a high-end image with personalized service, makes the cost worth it for Starbucks’ loyal following.
The brand experience
In “How Starbucks’ Branding Brewed More Than Just a Cup of Coffee,” Giana Pacinelli wrote about “The Starbucks Experience,” explaining why the chain represents so much more than a morning cup of java. One important element of the experience is a marketing strategy that illustrates it.
In the fall of 2014 Starbucks launched an advertising campaign called “Meet Me At Starbucks,” in which the brand focused on the customer experience rather than products. “[T]hat more than coffee feeling that you get from being at Starbucks,” Pacinelli wrote. In the campaign the brand created a sort of documentary filmed in 59 stores in 28 countries over one 24-hour period. In a 60-second spot, the commercial chronicled people who gathered at Starbucks for more than a caffeine boost. Along with TV spots, a YouTube channel and display ads, Meet Me At Starbucks promoted the #HowWeMet hashtag for Instagram, encouraging customers to take photos capturing how people have met. The campaign has been present across all social media channels, giving more consumers the opportunity to connect with the brand on a more personal level.
Gaining trust, loyalty
A key finding in Q1 of 2014 by Huge, an international digital marketing firm that helps “transform brands” and “grow business,” was that a brand is built over time thanks to trust “that results from the fulfillment of promises made by the brand to the customer. However, this trust is fickle. If a promise is not fulfilled in other interactions (e.g. point of sale, in the product itself, word of mouth, etc.), it will not grow.”
As any consumer knows, there is an extreme amount of brand competition in the marketplace today, and it is constantly growing thanks to social media, digital marketing, etc. Thus, brands have to do more to differentiate themselves—to appeal in a unique way and deliver on promises in order to build brand loyalty.
Brand loyalty isn’t based on prices or what a consumer will spend, but relies upon shoppers’ perceptions, which are developed through marketing, advertising, reputation and previous experiences.
As per Retention Science, an organization that helps marketers understand customer data and predict customer actions, “Customers who are loyal to a brand remain customers because they believe you offer a better service and higher quality than anyone else, regardless of pricing or other financial reasons.” This, in essence, is the goal of any and every brand.
So, how does a company or business build brand loyalty? Lauren Maillian Bias, founder and CEO of Luxury Market Branding, offers seven tips:
1. Keep quality high.
Stay consistent with the quality of goods and/or services. There is a certain expectation of quality and consumers will go back to the brands they know won’t let them down.
2. Engage customers.
Staying in touch with the target market consistently will keep a brand top of mind. Update them on the latest and keep communication fresh—let loyal shoppers feel involved with the company.
Maintaining contact with customers means asking for their opinions and allowing them to rate services to express whether expectations were met. Show that the business cares and be sure to meet demands. Customers must get what they want in order to return.
4. Give a reason for customers to come back.
Offering incentives to repeat customers encourages them to come to a specific store over competitors. Loyalty reward programs are helpful, offering special status and non-cash incentives.
5. Stay relevant.
Be sure to stay on top of what the competition is up to and what the latest trends are in the industry. Update marketing strategies so they remain relevant to the market—the message must remain valuable.
6. Provide value.
Repeat business means customer loyalty, which is invaluable. Work on creating a plan to give a percentage of loyal customers’ expenditures back to the consumer somehow. Maybe perks with a purchase or a bonus service—added value for a brand is key.
7. Show appreciation.
Don’t forget to send thank you notes and holiday cards to customers. They want to know their favorite brand cares about them and not just how much they spend.
While consumers are purchasing more goods online thanks to mobile websites and associated perks from websites like Amazon Prime, they expect the same value from brick-and-mortar outlets when they choose to shop in-store. First-come, first-served deals like those on Groupon are not always helpful to consumers as they are short lived. Brands with physical stores can capitalize on consumers who miss special offers by providing some sort of added value and quality that proves a company’s worth